Opinion: San Onofre didn’t produce nuclear energy for San Diego County, but we’re stuck with the waste via The San Diego Union-Tribune


Aguirre is a partner in the Aguirre & Severson law firm and was the San Diego city attorney from 2004-2008.

Our political leaders would like us to ignore or forget the fact that San Diego is now the home to a permanent nuclear waste dump located on the tip of San Diego County’s northern shoreline.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station’s Units 2 and 3 produced electricity for 28 years (1984-2012). Unfortunately, they also made 28 years of radioactive nuclear waste. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) allowed the plant operator to bury, on the beach in San Diego, 73 canisters, holding the thousands of small pellets of spent uranium used to make San Onofre’s electricity.

The plant operator allowed the bottoms of canisters to get caught on the shield rings of the underground storage vaults into which the storage canisters were downloaded. The plant operator caused the problem because the training canister was smaller than the actual canisters used. The training canister provided about three-quarters of an inch more clearance, making the lining and lowering of the training canister much easier than would be experienced with the actual spent fuel canister. The plant operator never identified the resulting misalignments as conditions adverse to quality; consequently, the plant operator never implemented actions that would have corrected the problem and prevented a scare on Aug. 3, 2018.


The plant operator and NRC regulators first tried to cover up the Aug. 3 accident by falsely claiming the reason the plant had stopped downloading was to give the plant workers a rest. But a whistle-blower came forward and spilled the beans.

More than nuclear waste has been buried at San Onofre; the written record of these safety law violations has been as well.

The plant operator’s safety violations amount to serious violations of federal criminal law. In 1954, Congress adopted Section 223 of the Atomic Energy Act to provide for criminal sanctions for willful violation of nuclear safety rules.


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